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Les Du Mouchel is not used to standing still.
He's been mimicking the moves of Michael Jackson since age 3 and has shaken his money maker -- literally -- as a resident dancer at Axis/Radius, CBNC, Sanctuary and Club Bash.
But these days, the 22-year-old is stuck at a standstill. In the last nine months, Du Mouchel has suffered a hip injury, lost his job, gotten robbed, gotten dumped and seen his business partner jailed. What was supposed to be a brief stay in Phoenix has become a bit of an ordeal.
In late 2002, Du Mouchel left his hometown of Calgary to take a shot at a show-biz career in Los Angeles.
It's just one of those things where you realize you have a talent bigger than a small market, he explains, and you have to leave.
En route, he pit-stopped in Phoenix, where his father lives (and where, for one year, Du Mouchel attended Thunderbird High School and played right wing for the Junior Coyotes). He had in mind to work for a month, maybe two, to save some money before completing his trek to L.A. A month turned into a year -- and then some.
The desert just kind of sucks you into a comfort zone, he says. Since arriving in the Valley, Du Mouchel has gotten sucked into various gigs: telemarketing, scooping ice cream, scouting models, waiting tables, selling CDs on the street, and collaborating on a short-lived cable-access variety show.
He's taken vocal, piano and guitar classes at Phoenix College and, under his stage name, Leslie Brown, even recorded tracks on two locally produced compilation albums. Chapter 1: Observation of the Streets, released earlier this year by EmbryoSoul Entertainment, features O Canada, Du Mouchel's hip-hop shout-out to his homeland honeys.
Things picked up even more in early 2003, when Du Mouchel drove his then-girlfriend to a Nebellen audition and, upon hearing the music, begged for a chance to audition.
With his multicolored dreads and fine facial features -- most of them pierced -- Du Mouchel is equal parts Sideshow Bob and Lenny Kravitz. Born to a French-Canadian father and Ghanaian mother, he brought a unique look to Nebellen, and -- partial to shirts unbuttoned to his navel -- knows how to work it.
Dancing is, like, definitely my passion, and I think it might be what will get me into the industry, he says, while admitting that his lack of training holds him back. His only formal instruction was in Scottsdale Community College's summer dance conservatory program, where he was introduced to jazz, ballet and modern movement.
He lacked formal methods, but he had the muse.
I remember when I was 3 or 4, I had my Michael Jackson red leather jacket, and I was doing my thing in the living room.
But since injuring his hip last fall during a Tae Bo workout, Du Mouchel has been sidelined by pain -- and a lack of health insurance.
My hip is jammed up in the wrong spot, he says. And it's rotated to the left, so it's totally out of whack.
The pain has kept on building. From September to January, I was dancing with Nebellen, like, four times a week, as well as dancing in the club three times a week. It was just killing me.
This January, Du Mouchel finally surrendered -- and stopped dancing.
His problems, however, gained momentum. N Tha Room Studio, a ghetto-ass apartment where he recorded and lived with his co-producer, was robbed. He was fired from his restaurant job. His girlfriend walked. His longtime friend and partner in Afrodiisiac -- a business venture celebrating black culture through art, music and tee shirts -- got sent to the clink for probation violation.
I just want to run away to L.A., just start from scratch, Du Mouchel says. I feel so stuck, because I don't have money to rehabilitate myself.
But he continues to write music and ice his hip and take vocal classes and dream of the big time. He's scored (and quit) another restaurant gig, has returned to the recording studio, and is setting up a Web site to pimp his talents (www.lesdbrown.com). And, if his hip allows, he'll perform a piece in next week's Nebellen show.
There's a million other cats that think just like me, Du Mouchel admits, but I'm gonna make it. I believe it, for real. Maybe I'm crazy, but I believe I have something to express.
I don't fit anywhere in Phoenix. I'm not destined to stay here.